Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Creamy Mushroom Soup with Sauteed Chanterelles

Mushroom Soup with Sauteed Chanterelles

Even though Steven isn't a big soup person like me, we're both crazy about mushroom soup, specifically the one from our local specialty grocery store (MM). MM makes a delicious version that's thick, creamy, and loaded with hearty pieces of mushrooms. I might balk at 99.9% of the prices in that store, but we rarely leave without a container of our favorite soup. Of course we always bring the ladle down to the very bottom of the deep stainless steel pot to make sure to get as many of the big beautiful pieces of mushrooms as we can, since they tend to settle at the bottom. Gotta get the most bang for our buck, ya know? Anyways, recently MM seems to have stopped offering that soup, and that made us quite sad. :( Then it hit me! Take the dried porcinis sitting in my pantry and combine that with the fresh chanterelles Steven's mom gave us (only $10/lb at Costco!), and we could make our very own mushroom soup.

The mushroom soup from the store always had this characteristic earthy and absolutely delicious aroma but Steven and I could never pinpoint exactly what it was. But as I was soaking the dried porcinis, the exact same mysterious smell filled the kitchen. Turns out, the soup smells like dried porcinis and porcini water! Yummm! (Definitely some good quality soup that the store offers.) As for the taste, the soup I made tasted just like the one from the store, maybe even better.

- The sauteed chanterelles are optional. You can replace them with your choice of fresh mushrooms, like shiitakes or portobellos, or omit them entirely.
- Most recipes call for pureeing the mushroom soup before serving, but Steven and I love big chunks of mushrooms, so I'll leave that up to you.
- You can use white button mushrooms instead of the criminis (which are actually just immature portobellos), but I think criminis have more flavor (maybe that's just me but cmon they're brown!). :)
- Next time I'll try adding a little more flour because it wasn't as thick as the one at the store.

Mushroom Soup with Sauteed Chanterelles

1 lb crimini or button mushrooms
About 1/2 oz of dried porcinis (I don't have a scale and it's pretty hard to eyeball dried mushroom weights)
2 C chicken stock
1 1/2 C water
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 small onion, minced
1 small clove of garlic
Leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme, minced
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 C heavy cream
About 2 - 3 Tbsp of sherry or Maderia (I substituted 1/2 white wine and 1/2 Marsala)
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional Garnish
Sauteed fresh mushroom
1 Tbsp butter
4 - 8 oz. fresh mushrooms (like shiitakes, portobella, chanterelle, morel, etc.)
1 small clove of garlic
A little salt and pepper
Fresh chives

Bring 3/4 of a cup of water to a boil (I use the microwave). Pour this over the dried porcinis in a bowl or if the water is already in a bowl, just add the dried porcinis and poke them down into the water with a spoon. Cover the bowl with a lid, a small plate, or some plastic wrap, and let it sit to rehydrate the mushrooms.

Clean the crimini mushrooms by brushing them with a soft brush or wipe them with a damp paper towel, trim off any discoloration or spots. Slice them thickly or quarter them, it's up to you. Mince half the onion, set aside. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprig and give them a rough chop, set aside. Press or mince the clove of garlic, set aside.

(Note: why is this step so complicated? Because you wanted to save both the hot water that the porcinis have been soaking in and the water you use to wash them. Then you can combine the two liquids, and pass them through a filter to get rid of the dirt and debris. This liquid is crucial for the flavor of the soup.)
By now the porcinis should have softened. Do not discard the soaking liquid!!! Doesn't it smell good? The recipe called for 1 1/2 C of water so in another bowl, add the remaining 3/4 C of water. It can be warm or cold, doesn't really matter. Use a fork/chopsticks/your impeccably clean fingers and fish out the porcini pieces from the soaking liquid and then give them another rinse in the second bowl of water. This will dislodge any remaining dirt or grit from the mushrooms. Give them a good rub if they're stubbornly dirty. After all the mushroom pieces have been washed, the liquid in the second bowl will be pretty brown too, and save that. You can combine the soaking liquid and the rinsing liquid. Then line a fine mesh sieve with 2 pieces of coffee filter or a layer of paper towel folded in half. Wet the filters or paper towel to prevent it from soaking up the precious porcini water. Then slowly pour the porcini water into the lined sieve into another bowl or measuring cup and set aside for later. The coffee filter or paper towel will prevent the dirt and grit from passing through. Give the porcinis a good chop.

Heat two tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the onions. Add a little salt and cook until the onions have softened. When the onions have softened, add the minced garlic, freshly ground nutmeg, and thyme, and let it cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Then add the chopped criminis and porcinis, some salt and pepper. Cook until the liquid released by the mushrooms have evaporated. When the liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to brown, you can stop cooking them and set the pan aside.

Melt a tablespoon of butter in a 3 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk the roux until it smells toasty and nutty and looks blond, almost very light brown. Then slowly add in your chicken stock and whisk vigrously to get out any lumps. Then add the porcini water, sometimes there will be very fine dirt that managed to pass through the filter settled at bottom of the cup or bowl, so you can discard the very bottom of the liquid if that occurs. Use a good rubber/silicone spatula and scrape all of the sauteed criminis, porcinis, and any liquid in the skillet into the saucepan. Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile you can prepare the optional sauteed mushroom topping. Slice your mushrooms and mince/press the garlic. Heat a tablespoon of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, the garlic, some salt, and pepper. Saute until any liquid released from the mushrooms have evaporated and the mushrooms start to brown a little. Set aside for your garnish.

After the soup has simmered for a bit, you can puree it with a immersion blender or in a normal blender (but be careful of the hot soup erupting Old-Faithful-style, only fill the blender jar halfway and hold the top with a towel). Or you can skip the blending part if you like chunky soup like me. Stir in the heavy cream and sherry/Maderia/white wine + Marsala blend and bring the soup back up to a simmer again and then serve. (Usually the soup is sufficiently hot that you can just add the cream and alcohol and serve without simmering again).

Garnish each bowl with some sauteed mushrooms and chopped chives and enjoy. :)

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